Thursday, February 9, 2012

For good men to do nothing

A funk permeates the week, for reasons concrete and ineffable.

One canary in my coalmine is this blog, for which ideas normally abound. This week it feels like blogging for blogging's sake, fulfilling nothing more than a small disciplined rite.

What I would write feels even more trivial. I'm temporarily tired of talking about open-water swimming (as tired as you may be of reading about it) this week, and even tired of swimming open water (or tired from it). Though I hold a trove of drawings, and await a time soon in which I can show-and-tell new work, I don't see the value this week in posting them.

I've been thinking, and that's dangerous.

Thinking that this week, among many, the government of Syria is bombarding its city of Homs,  News sources whom I judge credible cite sources who say government agents are detaining and torturing children as part of its campaign to suppress opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. That's in addition to relentlessly shelling the city against any and all. Just sheer, plain, open (as close as the news media can get) bloody repression.

You could rightly ask, "Where ya been?" Atrocities go on all the time, in the Congo, in Iran, in Egypt, Pakistan. Where was I during the ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Muslims, you could ask? Probably where I am now, at my desk, letting the news trickle in and out my ears.

This week, for some reason, it jolted me to stupefaction.

This week, an investigator for the United Nations reported that Sacramento violates the human rights of its homeless, restricting access to water and public restrooms. Of course, open urination and defecation is a crime; so the city forces homeless to add to the complex nefarious factors that render them homeless, the daily undignified crime of evacuating their bowels. And I in stupefaction and indifference, let it go on.

One TV news station interviewed a homeless woman who said she goes to the bathroom in plastic grocery shopping bags, and tosses the filled bags into trash bins. She looks matter-of-factly at the reporter as she says this, with just a hint of hesitation, gathering up what dignity is still hers to tell an unseen public what she must do to get through her day.

Up to that moment, I had not even thought of her indignity. It's so easy for me to choose not to. I know children live on the banks of the American River, without a place to call home; I know that each morning a van for the Mustard Seed School drives on the levee roads, calling out to the hidden encampments that school will soon start and would you be able to come today? I've known it for years. I choose to forget.

This week, a reason to celebrate a freedom still hangs under threat. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," wrote a judge in the majority opinion. Clear as day.

Gay marriage is still banned, the court decided, citing the inevitable court appeal to come, and the expected hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

My congressional representative, Republican Dan Lungren, advanced Prop. 8's basic argument, that the people have spoken and marriage should remain only between a man and a woman. The elusory beauty of our system of government is that it's designed to save us from ourselves: True, the majority of people could also vote that Islam should be outlawed or that redheads should be interned or that some children for this or that reason should receive an education, but that wouldn't make it right.

We have legally oppressed our citizens by the color of their skin, country of origin, gender, and sexual orientation. We are beginning anew the oppression of citizens by their religion. Yet our rule of law has painfully, slowly turned on itself to erode those oppressions.

Dan Lungren does not represent all whom he is duly sworn to represent, and by extension, does not represent me.

And what, for god's sake, is so much better about marriage being between a man and a woman? The evidence for its hypocrisy is piled high, and a society made richer and more complex by a myriad of family dynamics, good and bad, turns the argument for tradition into cheese cloth.

I still can't fathom the harm gay marriage does to anything or anyone, except by the creation of vitriol in those who have decided all of us should live in their mold and fashion. It does not interfere with traditional marriage. It instead accords rights already inherent, that law up to now has denied.

I offer no solution for any of this. It vexes and perplexes, and I am impotent in my apoplexy. What little I was doing to help anyone else's unease has given way to a weird worklife lately. Excuses, excuses. But somehow I have the energy for semi-public self-flagellation? Hmm.

One of my favorite cartoonists, Art Spiegelman, who laid bare his own barely bearable guilt when he created the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, a Survivor's Tale, said "Perhaps guilt is a useful civilizing agent that keeps people from behaving worse than they otherwise might. Guilt can be an explosive thing to live with, but it may be the price we humans must pay for civilization while trying to learn true Empathy."

The hell of it is, for reasons plain and impenetrable, my funk will lift and I'll examine the totems of my life with new vigor. And children will still scream in torment in Syria and elsewhere at the hands of those who see them as weapons. A woman mere miles from my warm home will find no other choice but to shit in a bag and throw it in a Dumpster™©. Gay and lesbian couples will still truly wonder if their day of acceptance will come.

Where ya been?

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is one of the most thoughtful I know. And you are an amazing man, illustrator, writer....and swimmer!


    Jump back in.

    Stay thoughtful.